The ‘zero problems’ policy

The ‘zero problems’ policy

By Berİl Dedeoğlu

One of the most frequently asked questions about the current state of Turkish foreign policy is “What happened to the ‘zero problems with neighbors' strategy?” It is a fact that the list of problems grows longer with every passing day, be it with Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Cyprus or, last but not least, with Israel.

The present picture is definitely not promising. Furthermore, it is indeed true that Turkey sometimes reacts in a harsh, rigid and even threatening manner to its neighbors. It is clear that there is a problem; however, the real reasons for this problem are not simple to demonstrate. It is also necessary to ask why Turkey's neighbors have rejected the “zero problems” approach and forced Turkey to become a threatening country. We must here admit that Armenia remained the exception in Turkey's efforts at rapprochement, but with its other neighbors, Turkey displayed a genuine effort to build new partnerships and strengthen regional stability. First Israel didn't keep its word, which created tension in bilateral relations, and then the Mavi Marmara crisis caused those relations to further deteriorate. Turkey became angrier when Israel tried to deepen its cooperation with Azerbaijan and Cyprus in response to Turkey's reaction.

Turkey took great risks by protecting Iran in the middle of its nuclear crisis. In exchange, Ankara asked Tehran to let Syria go. Turkey was eager to help Syria join the international system, and if Iran had agreed to keep its hands off Syria, Turkey was ready to initiate a solid partnership with Iran. However, Iran, just like Israel, decided not to cooperate with Turkey in this game. In other words, Iran and Israel did everything possible to disrupt Turkey's policies. Simultaneously, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has played a key role in accelerating the process of damaging Turkey's “zero problems” approach.

Israel and Iran have probably evaluated Turkey's policy through the lens of their own short-term interests and noticed that Turkey was gaining greater influence in the region. They thus decided to oppose Turkey's growing clout. Nevertheless, Turkey's policy was offering guarantees for these countries' security and survival, too, as their current policies, even though they don't admit it, are the main obstacle to their own security.

Still, what is going on is bigger than Israel or Iran. Turkey's policies and its growing influence in the Caucasus-eastern Mediterranean axis has disturbed many other countries, which most likely think it will be better for their own interests if Turkey has tense relations with all its neighbors.

One of these countries is definitely not Barack Obama's US. In fact, Russia appears too frequently in the background when one looks at Avigdor Lieberman's Israel, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Syria, Iran and Cyprus. However, Russia could very well contribute to Turkey's foreign policy and maintain its good relations with these countries at the same time. This means that Russia does not have enough reasons to push Turkey out of the game. And that is why it is not meaningful to look at Russia alone to find all of the answers. It will be more instructive to examine who Russia is actually building strategic ties with.

Russia and the US seek to preserve a balance in their bilateral relations; however, this balance has two fragile components: The EU under the influence of the French-German axis, and Turkey. These two components were asked to help preserve the balance; however, the EU did not agree to play its role and pushed Turkey away. Turkey then decided to get closer to the US, while Russia has chosen to cooperate with the EU.

Maybe it is clearer now which countries' interests are served when Turkey is plunged into problems with all of its neighbors.
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
19.10.2011
 
 

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